x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Emirates need to grow more food says UAE Minister of Economy

The Minister of the Economy calls for greater investment in homegrown produce

Investment in homegrown produce is critical to maintaining the UAE's food supplies, the Minister of the Economy said today.

Sultan al Mansouri, the UAE Minister of Economy, said that the Emirates currently imports more that 85 per cent of its food, which was unsustainable given the world's growing food crisis.

"Because of our food requirements, [homegrown food] becomes a strategically important issue, not only for us, but the GCC and the world, in order to address the food crisis," he said.

The minister's comments came a day after Oxfam described the world's food system as "broken" and called for a radical overhaul of commodities speculation.

The charity said that radical action was required by developed and emerging economies to prevent a doubling of basic food prices and mass starvation within the next two decades.

"Our policy is is to be involved, it is critical to us," Mr al Mansouri said.

The Government launched a campaign last week, in partnership with the major retailers, to lower the prices of 400 basics foods across the Emirates in a bid to contain inflation at the tills.

The scheme will last for six months and involves more than 70 outlets in the UAE, including Carrefour, Lulu and Spinney's.

Increasing population demographics, a higher oil price, climate change and commodities speculation are all being blamed for increasing prices of food globally.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization food price index continued at high levels in April, up 36 per cent on last year.

Mr Mansoori said the Supreme Committee for Consumer Protection were trying to address why some retailers and suppliers had increased prices without a valid reason for doing so. In one instance, the committee discovered that the price of rice had fallen in exporting countries, but suppliers had increased the price in the UAE, Mr Mansoori said.

"What happens sometimes is the retailers want to escalate the price in a way that could be damaging to the economy, and if there is no reason behind the rise of price, we have the full authority by law to call on these suppliers and make sure they are behaving [responsibly]," he said.

Despite importing much of its food supplies, the UAE does produce a range of food locally, from tomatoes and lettuce to cucumbers.

But it is not on a scale to meet the needs of the population.

The Abu Dhabi Farmer's Services Centre (FSC) was launched last summer to give small farms help in developing local produce by offering them expertise, technology, and access to marketing channels.